When asked what my motivation is for participating in extreme desert running events since 2010, my answer is two-fold. Yes, there is the personal challenge and satisfaction of completing these races. But the main reason for my participation is to raise money, support and awareness for NGOs and social causes at the forefront of addressing Africa’s development challenges.
My next desert race is the six-day, 250km Fire and Ice Ultra from 27 August – 1 September 2018 in Iceland. It will be my tenth desert race, and if successful, I will become the first African, and one of only a small group of people, to complete a multi-stage desert race on all seven continents.
But beyond achieving a special running milestone, my participation in the Fire and Ice Ultra is also another opportunity to support organisations making a difference in Africa.
Given my involvement with various African NGOs over the past 25 years, both professionally and through my desert running efforts, I am dedicating my participation in this race not to a single cause or organisation, but to the African NGO sector in general.
It is an opportunity to celebrate NGOs’ unique contributions across the continent, generate support and awareness for their work, and reflect on the state of the sector.
As of today, for the next 50 days until the start of the race on 27 August 2018, I will implement the #NGOs4Africa Campaign which will consist of the following components:
- Publishing profiles of 50 African NGOs that I have admired, supported or worked with over the years;
- Publishing 20 guest articles and analysis by NGO leaders and experts about critical challenges and opportunities facing NGOs in Africa;
- Publishing 15 articles about people using sport to raise awareness and support for good causes in Africa;
- Publishing regular updates about my training and preparations for the race, including updates about my campaign.
I will publish all these profiles and articles on my blog – https://desert2desert4socialcauses.com – and other online platforms, and promote them via social media (#NGOs4Africa).
I hope the various NGO profiles and articles will provide the followers of the #NGOs4Africa Campaign, and the general public, with the necessary context and insights to better understand and appreciate the work of NGOs in Africa.
The following paragraph, which I wrote in October 2010 after completing my first desert race, the 250km Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM), captures my personal experience and views on the connection between running a gruelling desert race and working in the NGO sector:
“Preparing for the KAEM and running the race is very much like managing an NGO in South Africa and many other developing country contexts. It is often a very demanding, lonely, frustrating position, with long hours and much time away from home and family. There is always more to do than what time and resources allow for; the challenges at hand are always more difficult and complicated than expected; there are no short-cuts for success; and the funding and support environment is challenging and unpredictable. But the people who work in this sector understand values and characteristics of integrity, determination and service, and the belief that only hard work and dedication will bring about change and improvement in the lives of our people. These are the reasons why we work in the NGO sector, and why NGOs are at the forefront of the fight for social justice, while at the same time providing much needed social services to millions of South Africans.”
These sentiments inspire me to continue using my participation in desert races for generating awareness and support for African NGOs.
I invite you to follow my #NGOs4Africa Campaign and share information in this regard in your networks.